The diets of Olympic athletes are different from sport-to-sport– runners, ice skaters, and gymnasts eat light and lean, while swimmers may eat as many calories as a small family in a day. But all of these Olympians note the importance of proper nutrition to fuel-up before a workout and recover after. Oftentimes, their meals have to serve both purposes as these athletes have up to five workouts a day.
While their workouts are highly regimented and led by the best trainers in the world, Olympic athletes oftentimes choose their own diets. Some of their chosen diets are strict, while others are just insane.
Olympic Speed Skater Mia Manganello Kilburg’s Diet
Florida native and Olympic bronze medalist Mia Kilburg competes in long-track speed skating and is also a professional racing cyclist. Coming from an Italian family, she says it’s hard to fight the temptation of pasta and pizza but sees it as an occasional reward for her hard workouts.
Mia told Delish that she eats breakfast before her first practice, usually oatmeal and orange juice, then avocado toast with an egg for lunch. For a light snack, Mia will eat some fruit before a dinner consisting of Teriyaki salmon with white rice and sautéed veggies.
Olympic Swimmer Michael Phelps’ Diet
During the 2008 Beijing Olympics, American swimmer Michael Phelps maintained an insane diet consisting of 12,000 calories per day. The 23-time Olympic gold medalist consumed around 4,000 calories with every meal to keep his energy up.
His breakfast consisted of three fried egg sandwiches, one five-egg omelet, porridge, three slices of French toast, and three chocolate chip pancakes. Lunch includes a large serving of pasta, two ham and cheese sandwiches, and energy drinks. For dinner– more pasta, an entire pizza, and according to Aspire Channel Swim. That’s a lot to stomach!
Olympic Decathlete Ashton Eaton’s Diet
Olympic decathlete Ashton Eaton says that both he and his wife, Olympic runner Brianne Theisen-Eaton, follow a “six-point philosophy” for their diet. He told Runner’s World that number one is “protein is king”. Their diet also includes eating the full-fat options of products and eliminating refined carbs and sugar.
Ashton also limits liquid calories and loads up on veggies. The retired decathlete prefers eating a wide variety of proteins, including steak, pork, chicken, and fish. He also makes what he calls “food boards”, taking a cutting board and laying out carrots, green beans, pickles, meats, and cheeses. “I’ll just kind of graze without overdoing it.”
Olympic Ice Dancer Madison Chock’s Diet
Although she once followed a vegan diet, Olympic ice dancer Madison Chock has recently begun incorporating animal products back into her diet. For breakfast, Madison says she typically eats flaxseed oatmeal topped with chia seeds and raisins.
Her go-to snacks are fruit and smoothies, consisting of spinach mixed with protein powder, rolled oats, and fruit. When it comes to dinner and lunch, Madison’s diet is more flexible than many Olympic athletes, as she loves chili and tacos, and often eats dinner leftovers for lunch the following day.
Olympic Gymnast Simone Biles’s Diet
Simone Biles stole the spotlight at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, taking home four gold medals and one bronze. Before her first workout, Simone told Women’s Health, “I love drinking Core Power; it’s a recovery drink. And then a banana and peanut butter because bananas have potassium, which helps with muscle cramps.”
For her lunches and dinners, Simone turns to fish (usually salmon) alongside servings of rice and carrots.
Olympic Swimmer Ryan Lochte’s Diet
While Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte doesn’t consume quite as many calories as Michael Phelps, he told ABC News that he does eat between 7,000 and 8,000 calories each day while training.
Ryan’s go-to food is pasta, and plenty of it. He hired professional chef Glenn Lyman, who is known for cooking for top professional athletes, to make his meals. Ryan eats a wide variety of pastas and for his cheat day, no matter where he is in the world, Ryan eats Domino’s pizza and wings every Friday.
Olympic Gymnast Gabby Douglas’ Diet
Three-time Olympic gold medalist gymnast Gabby Douglas first took the podium at the 2012 London Games. An incredible athlete, Gabby said learning about nutrition made a “huge difference” in her performance as a gymnast.
After switching to a diet filled with lean meats, veggies, and healthy carbs, Gabby saw an enormous difference in her muscle recovery after a tough workout. Gabby told MSN that once she cut out sugary “junk foods” she felt much better, and it showed in her performance.
Olympic Basketball Player LeBron James’ Diet
Olympic basketball player LeBron James eats a nutritious diet that also helps him maintain a healthy weight. LeBron eliminated sugars, dairy, and carbs from his diet. LeBron told Men’s Health, “All I ate was meat, fish, veggies, and fruit.”
That includes salads topped with a large portion of lobster or chicken dressed with olive oil and lemon vinaigrette. Before game time, he’ll add some pasta, or eat some fruit with a protein shake for extra energy.
Olympic Sprinter Allyson Felix’s Diet
Weighing in at 120 pounds, four-time Olympic gold medalist Allyson Felix says she eats around 3,000 calories per day. The sprinter told Stack, “I can eat quite a bit. I try and keep it really high-protein.” She sticks to grilled chicken and veggies and makes sure she has fruit on hand when she’s hungry for a snack.
Allyson typically eats toast or oatmeal for breakfast and almonds for a snack. For lunch, she’ll turn to a salad with salmon. And while she aims to eat healthy proteins and carbs, Allyson admits she’ll sometimes cheat on her diet for dinner at 7 pm.
Olympic Swimmer Natalie Coughlin’s Diet
Olympic swimmer Natalie Coughlin doesn’t hide the fact that she enjoys a good glass of wine with dinner. The twelve-time Olympic medalist told Food & Wine that she eats healthy but doesn’t stick to a strict diet. She said, “When I’m training, I have a mostly vegetarian diet, but I don’t worry about carbs or calorie counts.”
Natalie collects her own eggs from her five chickens, and also grows edamame, figs, and kale in her garden. She often makes smoothies with almond milk and eats hearty foods like eggplant instead of meat for dinner.
Olympic Luge Rider Chris Mazdzer’s Diet
Olympic luge racer Chris Mazdzer became the first American to ever win the Olympic singles medal in the sport. In order to stay in shape to go speeds up to 90 mph, Chris says that he doesn’t stick to a specific diet but always tries to eat well.
For breakfast, he’ll eat an omelet and yogurt topped with berries, honey, flax seeds, and hemp seeds. If he’s staying at a hotel, Chris will always check to see if they have smoked salmon with avocado. He’ll pick up a burrito or make his own chicken fajitas later in the day.
Olympic Gymnast Aly Raisman’s Diet
Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman has an incredible three gold medals, two silver, and one bronze from the 2012 London Games and the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games. These days, the retired gymnast told Women’s Health that she wakes up and drinks a glass of celery juice around 8 am, along with iced coffee and sometimes a bagel.
Aly loves cooking all of her own meals and has even started growing some of her veggies and herbs. For lunch, Aly cooks her own vegetable broths for soups, and snacks on smoothies, throwing a combination of fruits and greens in, along with ashwagandha powder. For dinner, “My plate is usually heavily veggies,” she says.
Olympic Swimmer Simone Manuel’s Diet
Texas-born Olympic swimmer Simone Manuel doesn’t skip on the steak and loves her hot sauce. She told Further More, “I try to have steak once a week because my weight coach Cory Schlesinger says the healthy fats, protein, and iron are good for my performance.”
For breakfast, Simone typically eats avocado toast topped with eggs and Tabasco. She’ll make big salads for lunch that includes feta cheese– “I really love feta cheese,” she says. Lunch and dinner can include chicken or salmon, and rice or potatoes. Her snacks are usually fruit, Greek yogurt, and a granola bar before her swimming workouts.
Olympic Swimmer Missy Franklin’s Diet
American Olympic swimmer Missy Franklin swears by what she calls “caffeine naps”. Missy told Glamour, “I’ll just drink a cup of coffee, go lie down for like 30 minutes, and then when I wake up the caffeine’s really in my system so I’m not groggy–I feel fantastic.”
Missy prefers eating six small meals a day to stay fueled through her morning swim, late morning weight training, and afternoon practice, ending with late afternoon swimming. Chocolate milk is her favorite recovery drink. Her other go-to’s include whole-wheat pasta, English muffins, and toast. Also veggies high in good carbs.
Olympic Volleyball Player Kerri Walsh Jennings’ Diet
Kerri Walsh Jennings holds the record for the most Olympic medals in beach volleyball history, taking home the gold with teammate Misty May-Treanor in 2004, 2008, and 2012. Kerri says she focuses on nutrition and eating clean. She selects foods that she knows will help her body recover and refuel from long workouts.
Kerri told GQ that she has Bulletproof coffee and a smoothie for breakfast, a protein bar or honey sticks for a snack, and avocado toast on ancient grain bread for lunch. For dinner, Kerri will eat lean meat with some greens.
Olympic Snowboarder Jamie Anderson’s Diet
Olympic snowboarder Jamie Anderson has proved herself as one of the best women’s slopestyle and big air riders in history, winning 11 medals in the sport. When it comes to food, Jamie focuses on nutrition and eating whole foods.
She told US Weekly that she eats “Lots of different grains, ancient grains, and different beans, vegetables.” She loves cooking when she’s at home, putting together stir-fry dinners with a mix of vegetables and Korean flavorings.
Olympic Runner Justin Gatlin’s Diet
Olympic sprinter Justin Gatlin is considered one of the best sprinters of his time. To stay at the top of his game, Justin changed his eating habits with the help of his coach. For breakfast, he’ll eat a protein shake made with vegetables and whey. After practice, Justin will refuel with two Nutri-Grain bars.
For lunch, the runner sticks to a big salad topped with a lean protein, like chicken breast. Dinner will be filling and hearty, like a bowl of chili. He told Esquire that he can’t stay away from the sweets, though. He admitted that he called his coach at 11 pm to ask, “Hey coach, can I have a piece of apple pie?”
Olympic Runner LaShawn Merritt’s Diet
Olympic sprinter LaShawn Merritt is the ninth-fastest runner of all time. The three-time Olympic gold medalist (and one bronze) dished to For The Win what he eats in a day. LaShawn says that for breakfast he’ll eat egg whites with some oatmeal and fruit.
For lunch, it’s a chicken salad with coconut water. LaShawn will typically eat salmon or steak for dinner, along with vegetables and sweet potatoes. While he eats a very healthy diet, LaShawn says that he can’t give up chocolate chip cookies, which are both a snack and a dessert!
Olympic Skier Lindsey Vonn’s Diet
Olympic skier Lindsey Vonn keeps a close eye on her nutrition, only selecting fresh foods and preparing most of her meals herself. Lindsey told Health, “I eat a lot of protein and carbs to stay a healthy weight while I’m training and to get enough energy.”
She’ll look for the healthiest options of foods like pumpernickel bread instead of white bread, and almond butter in place of peanut butter. Lindsey will typically eat a skim milk cappuccino, scrambled eggs, and fruit for breakfast. For lunch, she’ll make grilled chicken breast with steam veggies and salad, and a large Spaghetti Bolognese picked up from a restaurant for dinner.
Olympic Tennis Player Serena Williams’ Diet
Olympic tennis player Serena Williams is one of the most dominant tennis players of all time and holds four Olympic gold medals. To be able to perform at her highest level, Serena sticks to a strict diet that’s both raw and vegan. She initially began the diet to show support for her sister Venus, who transitioned to a raw vegan diet after being diagnosed with an auto-immune condition.
For breakfast, Serena will eat fruit with almond butter, and a light salad for lunch. For dinner, she fills her plate with brown rice, veggies, and a salad. For a snack, she’ll opt for lemon juice, matcha green tea, or toasted Ezekiel bread.